25 May 2012

Restoring the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship. Part 4

Posted by Jody under: Wellness .

This, in turn, is being driven by employers who want lower healthcare premiums. Corporations used to buy healthcare insurance for their employees as an added incentive for their employees to work for them…and stay with them. But, as healthcare costs increased, those healthcare premiums became an increasing liability to corporations trying to stay competitive. They became, in effect, a real drain on the bottom line.

Yet each time a company changes its health plan, employees typically wind up with a new panel of “providers” — the doctors participating in that particular managed care plan. In many cases, employees have to select a primary care physician who participates in their company’s health plan. If they want to stay with the doctor they already use, they typically must pay more — or pay out of pocket. I’ve heard doctors tell me that their patients leave them regularly just to save a few bucks under a new managed care plan.

This is really sad. In cases of financial hardship, it’s certainly understandable, but sad nonetheless. Wouldn’t we be better off with a system where we are free to stay with the doctor we already have? If you have a doctor you like, who you believe is a good doctor and who has taken good care of you in times of need, doesn’t it make sense to stick with that doctor?

Corporations should contract with health insurance quotes which allow their employees to maintain their existing relationships with doctors, if they so choose, without penalizing them financially. Allowing employees to keep their doctors may result in healthier and happier employees, which can only improve their productivity and motivation…and the corporate bottom line.

What about the argument that managed care is a good thing because it saves money and prevents needless procedures, and that under the old fee-for-service system doctors really were making too much money anyway?

The real question is this: should health care be treated like a commodity, like an item to be bartered, bought, traded and sold?

Managed care in and of itself isn’t the bad guy. HMOs, for example, emphasize preventive medicine and regular checkups for their patients to rule out disease or detect it early on when it’s most highly treatable. They also do a terrific job educating their patients to help them minimize the risk of serious disease in the first place. Under traditional indemnity insurance, such preventive services may not be covered, since patients typically need a presenting complaint (or sickness) before insurance kicks in. In this context, managed care is unquestionably a good thing.

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